What comes to your mind when you think of a healthy pantry? Nuts, legumes, fermented or canned vegetables, self-made marmalades, chutneys, broths, pastes, and all kinds of this stuff, filled in glasses, stocked for use? At least, this is what our pantry looks like. Yet, a much bigger, multyfaceted, surprising and incredibly healthy pantry opens before our eyes: nature! Visit Sweden* wants to call attention to this natural pantry with a special initiative.
With ingredients picked straight from nature, the four top chefs Titti Qvarnström, Niklas Ekstedt, Jacob Holmström und Anton Bjuhr created a menu together. The recipes and a detailed manual how to prepare them make it possible for anyone to cook them in nature itself. The initiative is an open invitation to dive into Sweden’s landscape and to enjoy its variety.
It shall bring us closer to what was natural once: the knowledge about wild growing, edible plants. The project wants to show, how easy and accessible healthy food can be. Berries, mushrooms, herbs and much more grows in Sweden’s fabulous and diverse environment. You just have to grab it.
For us, the idea behind The Edible Country could be a base to place confidence again into the grapes of nature. Do you, too, hear your parents warn you “Don’t eat wild berries! The fox tapeworm is life-threatening!” This way, you suck in a fear of nature starting in your childhood. Sure, you should know what you do, and not start collecting without background knowledge, but is this not the key? Imparting knowledge instead of warnings and restraints? Isn’t it absurd that we rely more on what the industry serves us in the supermarkets instead of on the origin of our food, and on the most natural way to collect and process them ourselves? Just this process is balm for the soul.
As part of an international group we were the first to experience The Edible Country right away. With the instruction of our experienced guide Pontus we roamed the woods of Småland to collect mushrooms for the menu. This alone was a highlight and worth the travel. With our full baskets we went deeper into the woods to cook a menu with two of the top chefs. We were especially looking forward to cooking on open fire in the woods. You know how much we love preparing our food like this. How wonderful the experience would be, we only got to know when we saw the little valley from the top of the hill. Amidst the moss-grown stones a beautifully set table was waiting for us. Next to it, flames were already licking in the fire bowls, and all the collected ingredients, berries, herbs and mushrooms were ready to cook. We did not believe our eyes!
It was a bit mean, actually. On the one hand, we could not let go of our cameras. On the other hand, we wanted to be in the middle of it all, to experience the preparation and cooking, chopping ourselves and ask thousands of questions. Thankfully, we are two and could split and rotate.
Still, we could have extended this experience for a few hours or even days. When do you have the chance to cook together with top chefs?
The three dishes we prepared together were surprising and extraordinary, despite or maybe because of the few ingredients and the simple preparation over the open fire. For us vegetarians there was broth from the woods with spring water, various mushrooms and herbs with browned butter as appetizer.
Chanterelles, juniper berries and common sorrel were the main course. Acorns and hazel nut crumble with wild fruits and stewed berries were the sweet finish. Apart from aromas from the woods, we only seasoned with butter, salt, and honey. You don’t need more to be completely soulful afterwards.
It is incredible how much inspiration we gathered within a few hours. Be it the insight that field penny-cress, which grows in front of our door, is pretty tasty, or that you can serve wild herbs like yarrow as dessert. That for a strong broth you don’t need more than a few mushrooms and herbs, or that acorns, after cooking them a few times, are actually edible and taste fantastically…
It was an unforgettable experience for us. We are incredible thankful that we were part of this project and were able to see Sweden’s uniqueness. Even if the top chefs came together for this event and usually cook in their own restaurants instead of in the woods, it is possible for everyone to experience such a dinner in this special environment. In Sweden, everyman’s right is a basic rule. A respectful contact with nature granted, everyone is allowed to roam the countryside. This way, and following the recipes and instructions of the chefs, you can collect the ingredients yourself and cook the dish wherever you like.
Alternatively, you can book seven handmade wooden tables with ready cooking gear from May to September. These tables are spread at special spots all over Sweden: Skåne, Western Sweden, Lapland, Jämtland, Småland, Stockholm Archipelago, and Värmland.
Who think he or she is not capable of collecting the ingredients on their own can book an experienced guide who will show you the collection sites and answers all questions about nature.
More information about this wonderful project you find on the website of Visit Sweden.
*Even though we were invited by Visit Sweden to this event, we only reflect our own opinion. We had completely free hand over content and text of the blog post.